FEATURE DOUGLAS GORDON
Trust in me
Glasgow artist Douglas Gordon is teetering on the edge of becoming a household name. But can the Turner Prize nominee cope with being the Irvine Welsh of the art world, asks Fiona Shepherd.
0 Douglas Gordon, Glasgow-born conceptual artist of international repute, trader in bizarre ideas and nominee for contemporary British art’s most prestigious accolade, the Turner Prize — what do you make of your fellow nominees?
(Pregnant pause. followed by a slight smirk) ‘I think they’re all great.’
And who do you fancy to win?
(Damned-if-l-do, damned-if-l-don’t expression) ‘1 don’t know who’ll win.’
There are some things you should never ask a man with a ‘Trust Me’ tattoo on his arm. When Richie Manic carved ‘4 real’ into his flesh with a razor blade there was no ironic intention — you don’t disﬁgure yourself ironically. When Douglas Gordon ﬁnally plucked up the courage to visit Terry’s Tattoo Parlour he was drenched in irony. Or was he? Perhaps we shall never know.
‘I wanted something that would kind of undermine myself,’ he says. ‘It’s like someone who says that they’re always lying, so the more you think about it, the more trapped you get.
‘My mum and dad don’t have an art background, so their reaction is, “why can’t you do a nice landscape?” and I
say, “don’t ask me what I’m doing, play with it on your own, I don’t want to show you how to play with it.” ’
The fact that they lie could be a lie, etc. so it all implodes. So should you trust me? What is trust? Where does it come from? Surely it never needs to be said.’
There are no answers, only questions. This could be Gordon’s catch-phrase. Except he could never stick to one catch-phrase. After all, this is the man who sent letters, each with a different abstruse statement. to a variety of friends and colleagues. His aim was to spark the creative thought process, which was only complete when the recipient added their own reﬂections on the missive. That must have made for a lot of ‘what the fuck —?’s.
However many thoughts the car advert says the average person has per day, Douglas Gordon
18 The List l5-28 Nov I996
must have about double the amount. And he
probably wouldn’t soundtrack them with M- People either. Because here‘s another of his thoughts-made-exhibitions: during the nine months I spent in the womb, what subliminal influences were reaching me? In Something Between My Mouth And Your liar. Gordon created a paciﬁc blue womb room and compiled a tape of music released between December 1965 and September 1966. the months between his conception and birth. to be played continually in an exploration of the potential formative inﬂuences on a human life. He then repeated the exercise using ﬁlms in Words And Pictures.
‘Conceptual art on the one hand can come across as quite dry.’ he says. ‘but at the same time it can be quite romantic, the idea that
Douglas Gordon: a man with nothing to hide, honest people can be affected by what’s in the air.’ Hmmm. Well. it’s intriguing at any rate. Intriguing in the same way as 1990’s List Of Names — a catalogue of I440 names of people Gordon had encountered throughout his life, soon to be revised to become a list of 2700 names. Intriguing in the same way as 24 Hour I’syr'lu). probany Gordon‘s best-known work, the self-explanatory Tramway installation which slowed down Hitchcock’s Psycho so that it lasted a day and fans of Janet Leigh could stop complaining that she wasn’t in the film for long enough. Intriguing. but. well. y’know. is it art. like? Is conceptual art never having to explain yourself? ‘No. but maybe it’s never having to say you’re sorry.’ says Gordon. ‘Actually. as far as the work goes it’s there for rogue interpretations.